One of the dining phenomena we’ve noticed throughout Brazil is the proliferation of por quilo (by the kilo) restaurants, essentially casual places where the food is ready-made and served buffet style. Priced by weight, you get what you pay for, at costs ranging between 1-something to 4-5 reais per 100 grams. The streets of Rio de Janeiro’s CBD are littered with kilo restaurants catering to local workers, and even in tiny Barreirinhas, we found 2 such joints. In testimony of Brazilian’s love for choices and variety, we’ve even frequented scoop your own ice-cream shops, perfect for serial tasters, though a double-edged sword for the indecisive.
The set-up is pretty standard at the kilo restaurants we’ve eaten at. You take a slip of paper or in more high-tech setups an electronic card from the greeter, survey the buffet and load up your plate. Then, you bring it to the lady by the electronic scales for a weigh-in, where the price of your meal is noted. Take it to your table of choice and enjoy! Drinks and desserts are often served and charged separately.
The food is by no means gastronomic, but at a good por quilo place, there’s a wide variety of both vegetables and meat, including traditional Brazilian dishes as well as some international bites (we saw sushi and stuff grape leaves at one). The cooking, while uncomplicated is simple and often quite decent. The one we visited in Rio’s Centro even had a grill at the back, where the cooks would slice up freshly grilled meats similar to those at much more expensive churrascarias.
In short, por quilo restaurants are good places to enjoy a quick, cheap meal and try out new foods at the same time. But pick judiciously, or one’s plate (and bill) may end up heavier than intended!